North East Poet Wins Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry

Portrait of Gillian Web with hair braided over her shoulder.
Gillian Web

A 68-year-old north-east poet has been announced as the winner of The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2016. Gillian Allnutt, who has strong connections with Tyneside and County Durham, will receive the award from the Queen in a ceremony to be held later this year.

The Gold Medal for Poetry was introduced by George V in 1933. Past winners include WH Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Stephen Spender, Derek Walcott, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon.

Gillian Allnutt lives in the County Durham village of Esh Winning and is published by Bloodaxe Books, which is based in Hexham. Though she was born in London, Ms Allnutt’s family later moved north and she attended school in Newcastle.

Ms Allnutt was first informed she was in line for the honour by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Ms Allnutt said, “When Carol Ann Duffy emailed in November asking for my phone number – to talk, as she said, about ‘a poetry thing’ – I was truly surprised and delighted when the ‘thing’ turned out to be nothing less than The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.”

“I am sad, though, that my mother is no longer here. She was always a staunch supporter of my choice to be a poet and she would have been so proud.”

Ms Allnutt says she decided to be a writer when she was just seven. She composed her first poems when she was 15.

In the past, Ms Allnutt has worked as the editor of the London magazine City Limits. She also won the Northern Rock Foundation Writers’ Award in 2005, and has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize for poetry twice.

Commenting on Gillian Allnutt’s royal honour, Carol Ann Duffy said, “The north is a constant touchstone in her work; canny and uncanny, its hills and coast, its ancient history and its people.”

“She has the power to comfort and to astonish in equal measure. In her outlook, her imagination, her concerns and her lyric voice she is unique.”

The north east certainly seems to be rich in poetic talent. It was recently announced that Jacob Polley, who lives in Whitley Bay and works at Newcastle University, has won the 2016 TS Eliot Prize.

Sean O’Brian, a colleague of Mr Polley’s at Newcastle University, won the same prize in 2007. In addition, four poets published by Bloodaxe Books have won the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in the past.

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